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Surprisingly very good. First let me say this book is getting a solid 4 1 2 stars and I mean this in the best possible way I ve had this book in my possession for a while I ve even started it a few times only to put it down but this time, it was as if the book was whispering to me from the shelf With a wave of a hand a curling of its figurative finger it enticed me to come closer Keep coming in a little deeper Just a little deeper, I have a story about a story and some lies and truth to tell That being said, my friends, pick up this book and don t put it down From my various quotes and posted thoughts throughout this book one can tell I was enad my the prose, the depth and weight if this book After the initial curiosity, I had no idea what I was getting into This is a book you will want to spend some time with This is a book that as you examine the questionable half truths, underlying truths and ultimate realities of these characters one can t help but to have moments of self reflection What really is truth, when it comes to a history When it comes to a life is the truth what we can stomach to tell Are lies what we choose not to repeat but can t help but make themselves known through our silence, even oozing from the very pores of our skin Are lies wrong when we need them to face ourselves another day Jonahs is a man who learned in childhood from his parents two very important lessons First lesson is to tell lies and make it your truth He learned to play happy family to those outside of his home where his father abused his mother The first rule of a dysfunctional home is not to tell His second lesson was to be very quiet, meld into your surroundings and maybe your angry at life father won t notice you This is the story that bares witness to the fact that often then not, ones broken home survival techniques flow into adulthood and can make for a hard struggle at a happy mature life It also leads to the pondering question, can we really know who our parents are The strange man and distant woman who come together to parent us looking back from adult perspective are not always who we thought them to be.Lastly, this is the sad story of Ethiopian emigrants risking their lives for freedom of an American dream but is the risk worth losing ones soul Really great book I do recommend it to readers of contemporary literature, those who read African authors and in general those who can appreciate the depth I read it pretty quickly but it is most likely one I would go back, read it again a probably contemplate That s what I would call it, contemplative Very entertaining There is an ere of sadness or emptiness or loss It gets aDebs Good Stuffaward I will try other books by this author Why then the lack of a perfect score The slightly slow building start, a slight rambling in the middle and I wasn t enthused about the ending Otherwise good Somehow, I missed Dinaw Mengestu s impressive literary debut which garnered reams of ecstatic praise so I m a little late to this party But after turning the last page of How To Read The Air, I can see what all the fuss was about This is an exquisite multi layered book, an extraordinary look at immigrant s identity, the downward spiral of violence, the power of story telling, and the vision of redemption It is rich, complex, and very, very good.His protagonist, Jonas Woldemariam, is treading water at his position at a refugee resettlement center in Manhattan In time, he is given the job of editing out the less credulous or unnecessary parts of some of the narratives, while at the same time pointing out places where some stories could be expanded upon or magnified for greater narrative effect While there, he meets his wife to be, Angela, an ambitious and upwardly mobile fellow African American who craves stability, security, and the great American Dream.Despite their mutual attraction, Angela is nearly immediately on to Jonas You don t have any idea of who you are, do you, Jonas Jonas muses, If I didn t know who I really was, then I could hardly be held accountable for not facing life as she expected me to I was innocent if there was no person behind the skin that could be charged The story of Jonas and Angela is juxtaposed with one of Jonas s parents Jonas s parents, Mariam and Yosef, left Ethiopia, a land of terror and uncertainty Their marriage was defined by consistent violence, which Jonas observed over and over again Jonas knew that his father developed a special sensitivity to the abrupt and dramatic shift of the air that precedes any violent confrontation Something vibrated, buzzed If ever there was a way to narrate it, he would have described it as the tiniest particles that made up the air we breathe becoming suddenly charged and electrified with a palpable life of its own Dinaw Mengestu lays out, brick by brick, the legacy of violence when overlaid with the immigrant s experience As Angela s cravings for reassurance including expensive shopping sprees increase, Jonas becomes increasingly distant and reserved When Jonas hears of his father s lonely death, he begins to rewrite his own history in his new position as part time teacher at a student academy Soon, he falls under the spell of his own stories, reinventing narrative to make sense of his life.He reflects, While this part of the story wasn t true to anything, I, or anyone I knew had ever experienced, it had an air of serendipitous salvation that struck me as being so unlikely that one had to believe it had occurred that way This is a breathtaking astounding look into the retelling of truth in an effort to find oneself It is about the price of honesty and the repetition of cause and effect It is a book that will linger with you and get under your skin I cannot recommend it highly enough. So maybe this isn t exactly five stars, it certainly has its flaws but for the few parts here and there where it drags there are dozens of other bits that sneak up on you and cut you, just cut the living shit out of you Mengestu s alternating, gradually merging, story of an abusive immigrant father told often invented by his thirty something son in midst of the dissolution of his marriage covers a range of themes but what is most striking is the brutally honest depiction of human isolation, the impossibility of people ever really knowing one another or making ourselves understood and how we all invent our own narratives as a way to make meaning in our lives and how that isn t ever simple or perhaps even possibleWithout ever thinking about it, I had become one of those men who increasingly spent and of their nights alone, neither distraught nor depressed, just simply estranged from the great social machinations with which others were occupied After the forced intimacy of childhood was over, I found I had a hard time being close to others The few friends I had made during college had all eventually moved on without me, not to different cities but to better lives within the same city where drinks and birthday presents, along with sex and intimacy, were casually exchanged The eerie calm in Dinaw Mengestu s new novel, How to Read the Air, is almost never broken There are flashes of violence a black eye, a broken lamp but those strikes interrupt an atmosphere of smothered despair Named one of the New Yorker s best 20 writers under 40, Mengestu earned high praise for his 2007 debut, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, about a lonely Ethiopian working in Logan Circle, and his new novel concentrates that theme of alienation even further.The story contradicts our most cherished cliches of immigrant progress We expect the parents to work hard, trapped between countries and languages, saving their pennies and toiling at every opportunity, chagrined by their children s disregard for the old values, their easy integration with American culture But Mengestu complicates that oft told tale with a peculiar, psychologically perceptive story that makes one wonder how a country of immigrants could ever survive.The narrator is 33 year old Jonas, born and raised in the Midwest His father escaped from Sudan in a box on a cargo ship his mother came over three years later Once reunited in America, they maintained a dreadfully unhappy, abusive relationship, haunted by the trauma of their pasts, and in the process created a new series of traumas for their son, who spent his youth finding new ways of numbing myself so nothing my parents, or by extension the outside world, did could touch me Jonas grew into adulthood feeling pessimistic, emotionally closed down and reflexively dishonest And that dishonesty provides the fabric of the novel, as he slides from devious lies to excusable fabrications to deeply moving fictions.The chapters alternate between the story of his three year marriage to a young lawyer in New York and the story of the chilling honeymoon his parents took 30 years ago from Peoria, Ill., to Nashville Uninformed, except for a few basic facts about their trip, and uninhibited about imagining his parents thoughts and actions, Jonas lays out their drive as a series of punches, resentments and escape fantasies The fights grew out of their own organic, independent force, he writes, obliged only to their own rules and standards Jonas has no interest in assigning blame or even judging his father, despicable as the man was, a paranoid brute whom Jonas and his mother hoped to escape in the way you d want to escape a bad storm Every detail of Jonas s behavior is relayed with the same dispassionate, factual voice, which provides a harrowing diagnosis of the symptoms of such a home At some early point in my life, while still living with my parents and their daily battles, he writes, I had gone numb as a tactical strategy, perhaps at exactly the moment when we re supposed to be waking up to the world and stepping into our own Mengestu illustrates the crippling effects of that upbringing in the alternating chapters that take place in post 9 11 New York Years of avoiding his father s wrath have trained Jonas in the art of invisibility, an ironic echo of Ralph Ellison s classic novel about a very different kind of black man in America I thought of my obscurity as being essential to my survival, Jonas writes Whoever can t see you can t hurt you Aimless and almost friendless 10 years after graduation, Jonas works a series of temp jobs before settling at an office that represents immigrants seeking legal status His assignment is to help prepare the applicants written testimonies about the abuse they suffered in their home countries But he quickly begins exercising editorial control I took half page statements of a coarse and often brutal nature and supplied them with the details that made them real for the immigration officer who would someday be reading them I took They came at night and turned it into We had all gone to sleep for the evening, my wife, mother, and two children All the fires in the village had already been put out, but there was a bright moon, and it was possible to see even in the darkness the shapes of all the houses That s why they attacked that night He s good at this, and if he oversteps the truth now and then, well, it s for a worthy cause, right What are troubling, though, are the fabrications he begins telling about his own life History sometimes deserves a little revision, Jonas claims, with a nod to The Great Gatsby I thought of this as a distinctly American trait this ability to unwind whatever ties supposedly bind you to the past and to invent new ones as you went along There s something slyly autobiographical going on here, of course a young novelist making up a story about a young man who makes up stories Mengestu is commenting on the life giving properties of make believe, as Jonas tries to save his parents, his job, his marriage with the drama and depth of his tales He s a modern day African American Scheherazade, striving to postpone the silence for just one day If my fictional narratives lacked any veracity, it didn t really matter, Jonas claims I was making something of myself while I was still young, and even if that something was little than an ever growing lie, it was still something to which I could claim sole credit and responsibility I was, however wrong it may have been, making a go of things By the end, How to Read the Air grows into a tragic and affecting paradox, a demonstration of the limits of fiction, the inability of stories to heal or preserve And yet there it is, this novel wholly contrived offering up its wisdom about the immigrant experience with the kind of power mere facts couldn t convey.http www.washingtonpost.com wp dyn [ Free E-pub ] ☣ How to Read the Air ♌ A Heartbreaking Literary Masterwork About Love, Family, And The Power Of Imagination, Which Confirms Mengestu S Reputation As One Of The Brightest Talents Of His GenerationDinaw Mengestu S First Novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, Earned The Young Writer Comparisons To Bellow, Fitzgerald, And Naipaul, And Garnered Ecstatic Critical Praise And Awards Around The World For Its Haunting Depiction Of The Immigrant Experience Now Mengestu Enriches The Themes That Defined His Debut With A Heartbreaking Literary Masterwork About Love, Family, And The Power Of Imagination, Which Confirms His Reputation As One Of The Brightest Talents Of His Generation One Early September Afternoon, Yosef And Mariam, Young Ethiopian Immigrants Who Have Spent All But Their First Year Of Marriage Apart, Set Off On A Road Trip From Their New Home In Peoria, Illinois, To Nashville, Tennessee, In Search Of A New Identity As An American Couple Soon, Their Son, Jonas, Will Be Born In Illinois Thirty Years Later, Yosef Has Died, And Jonas Needs To Make Sense Of The Volatile Generational And Cultural Ties That Have Forged Him How Can He Envision His Future Without Knowing What Has Come Before Leaving Behind His Marriage And Job In New York, Jonas Sets Out To Retrace His Mother And Father S Trip And Weave Together A Family History That Will Take Him From The War Torn Ethiopia Of His Parents Youth To His Life In The America Of Today, A Story Real Or Invented That Holds The Possibility Of Reconciliation And Redemption After a while, I found the book sort of rote It felt like it was written by an MFA graduate by which I mean it was well written, intelligent, but it lacked something Spirit Sincerity The great impetus for the narrative wasn t that great, wasn t much of a narrative The disintegration of the relationships were dealt with in manners I ve read before unexplainable ennui, boredom, random, for the sake of it.I couldn t get into the perspective either It worked when he was describing his relationship w Angela, and I feel the perspective and story worked particularly well when he was telling his students about his father But when he was narrating his parents story, their romance, their escapes, their dreamsI just couldn t get around it All I could think was, How does he know what they were thinking Feeling I think if it had been written in third omniscient or whatever it s called , it would have worked a lot better, given it the momentum I felt it lost otherwise. What a flat tire of a read this turned out to be and with all the hype that ensued I shouldn t have to question why All the elements for a possible fantastic novel were omitted in exchange for a series of ridiculous hard to follow sub stories It was just too many and really not necessary Technically, it is well written and Mengestu uses every trick in the bag to spin this tiresome tale of his Yes, I said tiresome because of it s lack of passion and spark No life or soul could I find between these papers making it clearly mechanical and almost robotic like.A few of the storylines such as Jonas relationship with his wife were believable as they both struggle with marital issues I, personally loved the storytelling in his classroom about his father, all of which were lies These stories were well executed In the end, How to Read the Air only made me aspirate with disappointment. How to Read the Air is the parallel story of two marriages as the participants struggle to connect with each other and find truth in themselves One couple, Yosef Mariam, are immigrants from Ethiopia who embark on a road trip from their home in Illinois to Nashville The trip highlights the fragility of their relationship and their inability and unwillingness to make it right The other couple that the novel depicts are Jonas Yosef Mariam s son, still an embryo on the aforementioned trip and his wife Angela While they are a modern couple living in New York City, they are faced with the some of the same issues to overcome as Jonas parents.As someone who lives a relatively solo existence, the novel s depiction of aloneness and loneliness really resonated with me Each person really kept a lot of themselves silent and secret and were unwilling to open up to their partner about who they truly were and what they were thinking Then I heard an interview with the author about the theme of home in the immigrant experience and that made me think about the book None of the characters ever really felt at home with each other or with themselves This was the most literary thing I ve read in awhile and after reading all those quick romances it was difficult for me to connect to this story at first But when I did finally, I thoroughly enjoyed it And I love that even a week after reading it, I m still thinking about it and contemplating its meaning. Tedious, so much so that I m not sure how I even finished it In fact, I actually fell asleep 3 times during the last 40 pages The book seems intent on depicting a certain feeling or state of being than a 3 dimensional protagonist That might work in a short story or even a novella, but not for 305 pages of navel gazing inertia None of the supporting characters were believable or consistent There were some nice sentences here and there, but for the most part, the whole thing left me cold The question may be whether a writer can depict a severely damaged, emotionally inhibited protagonist without constructing so big a barrier that the reader is ultimately indifferent to the character and to the story I would point to Paolo Giordano s Solitude of Prime Numbers as successfully pulling off the tricky feat of making you care about a seriously closed off protagonist who can t begin to articulate one single emotion So yes, it s possible, but not with this novel. What I was expecting A novel about a married immigrant couple from Ethiopia and the trials they faced there and then and here and now What it is A novel about the immigrant couple s son, his divorce, his retracing his parent s honeymoon.I read a quarter and very little, maybe ten pages at that point followed the parents and what unlikeable people they are I don t advocate spousal abuse, but I gotta be honest If I was the husband, I would slap that woman into next year She s got it coming, I m sorry to say.The book also goes on too long about ridiculous things How long his mother chooses to lay on a bed, his dad s obsession with boxes but what I really wanted to know but didn t want to wait till page 200 for the author to get to the point was why his parents hate each other so much I won this thru Shelf Awareness and I thank the publisher for the chance to read it, but it is not for me.